Being hit by sticks while dressed up as a woman and being forced to dance in public doesn’t exactly sound like everyone’s cup of tea.
But during the festival of Lathmar Holi in Barsana, India, that’s exactly what thousands of revellers get up to in the lead up to the full Hindu festival.
Lathmar Holi, which translates to ‘the festival of sticks and colours’, is the recreation of a famous Hindu legend involving Lord Khrisna who came from Nandgaon village.
Lord Krishna is said to have visited Barsana and teased his beloved Radha by flirting with her friends before they turned on him and kicked him out of the village.
Every year men from Nandgaon village recreate the legend by returning to Barsana to be chased away or captured by women who dress them up in female clothing and force them to dance.
The following day women from Barsana travel to Nandgaon where men drench them in colour in revenge.
The festival of Lathmar Holi in Barsana, India, begins with women beating men with sticks (known as ‘lathi’) while they try to avoid being struck
The tradition stems from a Hindu legend involving Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, who lived in the village of Barsana
According to the legend, Lord Krishna travelled from his home in Nandgaon village to Barsana and began flirting with Radha’s friends
The women became annoyed at him and began hitting him with sticks and eventually kicked him out of the village. The tradition now continues every year
After beating the men with sticks, several of them are captured and forced to wear women’s clothes before dancing in public
The men often sing provocative songs at the women to grab their attention before they beat them (Pictured: Men and women on the outskirts of Mathura in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh today)
Hindu devotees during the festival also climb the stairs toward the Ladali or Radha temple before the procession begins (pictured)
Hindu devotees are pictured praying at the Ladali or Radha temple earlier today before the celebrations truly begin
The coloured powder, known as gulal, was historically made from turmeric, paste, and flower extracts but today synthetic powder is mainly used
By the end of the day both men and women are drenched from head to toe in paint and powders of many different colours
Extracts from indigo plants, Indian berries, blue hibiscus and jacaranda flowers were used to create blue-coloured powders
The orange colour was traditionally created using a flower called Tesu that grows on Palash – or ‘flame of the forest’ – trees
Here, a hindu devotee with his face smeared with colours, is resting at the temple shortly before the procession starts up
Revellers cover their mouths and eyes with their clothes as a fine mist of pink and yellow coloured powder falls around them
The Hindu festival of Holi usually begins a few dates after Lathmar Holi. This year Holi celebrations begin on March 1
Yellow powder usually comes from turmeric but may be mixed with chickpeas or flour to get the desired shade
This man looks delighted as he throws pink powder up into the air towards the camera as several men stand around in the street
Here two women covered in colourful powder dance barefoot together at the Radha Rani temple as men crowd around them
This man took a moment for quiet reflection while covered in pink, yellow, and orange powder as the celebrations continue around him
This boy is shouting and cheering as he walks though a puddle of red at the Radha Rani temple while surrounded by older men